Old Asia Photography

Japanese Numbers List

​Souvenir Albums - Numbers List and Attribution Issues​

​Throughout the whole of the Meiji period and beyond, many studios in Japan issued souvenir albums of photographs. Unfortunately, many of these albums did not indicate the studio's name. Therefore, it was challenging to attribute the images' authorship to a particular studio or photographer. However, the vast majority of the photographs displayed descriptive captions and numbers on the face of the prints. A small percentage of the albums did indicate the studio with a title page or the name and address wet-stamped onto the back of the front cover. Starting in the early 1980s, I began to record the captions and numbers of those photographs contained in albums whose studios were identified. I also started to document those albums which needed to be identified. In those days, Japanese souvenir albums were relatively common. Within a few years, I could list photographs appearing in several hundreds of albums. Number patterns quickly emerged, and I identified an increasing number of studios. I published the results in my 1996 book Early Japanese Images where some 1,200 photographs were matched with their studios. In 2006 I published an expanded list of 4,000 in Old Japanese Photographs: Collectors' Data Guide. These have been further supplemented below to around 5,000. However, many gaps remain, and a few studios are yet to be identified.

Some years ago, Takahashi Shinichi discovered an album by Kanamaru Matashiro in the Yokohama Archives of History. It has proved to be a veritable 'Rosetta Stone' in that many previously unidentified photographs can now be matched with this studio. The studio was prolific. Over recent weeks and months, I have been reviewing and correcting numerous attributions. It's taken some 40 years, but the picture is much clearer. I encourage anyone with numbers that do not appear (or perhaps you have some corrections to suggest) to send in the details so they may be added. Contributing in this way would help collectors, researchers and photo historians.

A word of warning. Just because a photograph is listed below and attributed to a particular studio does not always mean that the studio in question created the image. Over the years, I have realised that the vast majority of studios had little hesitation in including the works of other studios in their portfolios. This practice might have been a simple case of geographical gap-filling if customer demand could not be satisfied with a studio's existing holdings. After all, it would have been a time-consuming and expensive process for a studio to travel the whole country photographing all of the scenes a customer might want to see included in an album. And as studio owners retired or died, their businesses might have been continued by family members, or their stock and negatives might have been sold privately or auctioned off. 

Consider just a few examples demonstrating the movement of negatives from studio to studio. One of the first studios to open in the early 1860s was one belonging to Felice Beato. He included the work of Charles Parker and a few images taken by the amateur Frederick Sutton. Most of Beato's negatives were sold to Stillfried & Andersen in 1877, who subsequently sold their stock to Adolfo Farsari in 1885. When Farsari left Japan in 1890, his studio continued under different names. But many of his negatives likely found their way to other studios when he left Japan.


In compiling the lists below, I have been helped by many generous contributors. These include: Tom Baker-Stimson, Greg Barattini, Emma Bennett, Torin Boyd, Tom Burnett, Jim Clinefelter, Agata  Czapkowska, Joseph Dubois, Elmer Funkhauser, Arlene Hall, Naomi Izakura, Nayla Maaruf, Rob Oeschle, Bonnie Olson, Adrien Saks, Christoph Scharzenbach, Fred Sharf, Pierre Spake, and Shinichi Takahashi. (Please let me know if I need to include any names.)

Terry Bennett

January 2023

Studio Number Description Comments
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1307 [Playing Samisen]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1311 [Two People, One Sitting]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1312 [Four Girls Dancing]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1313 [Kendo]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1321 [ Daimyo?]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1322 [Two Girls]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1328 [Learning Koto]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1332 [Young Japanese Ladies, One with Bowler Hat]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1334 [Young Man Sitting in Studio]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1336 [Family]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1339 [Musical Party]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1341 [Three Girls Dancing]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1341 Theater
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1341 Three Girls
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1342 [Five Geisha]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1343 [Daimyo]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1349 [Playing Go]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1352 Sumotori and Umpire
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1357 Two Girls
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1361 Girl with Baby
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1362 Geisha with Shamisen
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1365 [Oji]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1371 Winter Costume
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1375 [Cooking]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1376 Out for a Walk
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1380 [Lady Dressing Hair]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1383 Pipe Maker
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1384 [Making Geta] (see Fig. 45)
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1387 [Woman with Mirror]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1392 [Lady with Koto]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1395 [Cloth Merchant]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1398 [Tattoed Betto]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1417 [Actors?]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1506 [Newspaper Vendor]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1510 [Making Geta]
USUI Shusaburo (Studio) 1513 [Woman Seated with Samisen]
Submit suggested new entry
Using, copying, or distributing computer images of old photographs or pictures without permission is strictly prohibited.